Burundi – Presidential Term Limits

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Reports suggest the President is taking steps to ensure an extension to his rule, prompting concerns of further violence. 

President Pierre Nkurunzia has been pushing a political agenda to remove a key Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement that limits Presidential terms, which has helped to end 12 years of civil war.

Nkurunziza is also stalling on the East African Community (EAC)-led mediation process, which started in July 2015 but has yet to make any significant progress. The Burundian government has boycotted talks stating that some stakeholders should be excluded.

According to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled ‘the African Union and the Burundi Crisis: Ambition versus Realitythe government is seeking to change term limits, possibly by December.

Justin Nzoyisaba, chairman of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission, was quoted in August as saying the views so far collected across the country favoured the removal of term limits.

President Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term sparked civil unrest that has caused the death of hundreds and forced thousands to flee to neighbouring countries. The ICG says the government has realised that keeping casualties to a minimum limits scrutiny.

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President Nkurunziza with AMISOM commander General Silas Ntigurirwa in 2014 – CC

Meanwhile the United Nations (UN) envoy on conflict convention said that the international community and Burundi would find common ground for the deployment of UN police officers through continued dialogue.

“Our discussions were constructive and I’m confident that with continuous engagement and political will, we will find common ground as a basis for moving forward with the implementation of the resolution,” said Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Conflict Prevention.

UN Security Council Resolution 2303, adopted on July 29th 2016, authorised up to 228 UN police officers to be deployed in the capital Bujumbura and throughout Burundi for one year.

Benomar said he had held various meetings with the Government and other stakeholders, as well as with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the facilitator of the EAC-led dialogue.

However the Burundian authorities have rejected Benomar as a proposed mediator and they sent a letter to the UN to ask for his replacement.

On November 26th thousands of demonstrators marched in Bujumbura to protest against Belgium and the UN Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into human rights violations. The protestors were reportedly singing songs in support of President Nkurunziza.

The situation is ongoing and many commentators have expressed concern that the extension to term limits and the continued boycott of international mediation will prompt further violence and state repression.

(The East African 5/11; PANA, New York 9/11; RFI 15, 27/11)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

BURUNDI: ICC Withdrawal
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21182B–21183A

BURUNDI: Looming Risk of Genocide
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146A–21146B

BURUNDI: UN Police Deployment
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21108A–21108C

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Africa – Continental Free-Trade Agreement

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Negotiations for pan-African free trade make progress, although there remains widespread political opposition and significant logistical challenges.

On February 26th the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Africa reported that a group of seven experts from the regional economic commissions had met to discuss plans for a Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).

The talks were hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to review the possibilities for such an agreement in line with current African Union (AU) treaties. The talks also discussed the CFTA plan including elements to eliminate import duties and other trade barriers.

The plans were originally proposed in April 2015 when regional economic commissions met as part of the first CFTA organising forum. The current target date for the implementation of the agreement is 2017

Earlier on June 10th 2015 the CFTA became closer to a reality as 26 countries signed a Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) in Egypt as representatives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) agreed a deal.

According to the UN’s Africa Renewal, the combined GDP of the 26 countries is in the region of US$1.3 trillion and the population estimated at roughly 565 million. However other economic commissions – such as the Arab Magreb Union (AMU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) – are not party to the agreement.

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Fifty-one African countries are signatories of the 1995 Abuja Agreement which mandates that all regional economic commissions should sign up to the free trade agreement before 2017 in anticipation for a proposed African Economic Commission in 2028.

According to Jason Kapkirwok, Senior Director of TradeMark East Africa, an organisation that supports trade growth in East Africa, “It has the potential to increase economies of scale through integration, will increase demand for the region’s goods and services and make the region more attractive to foreign investments,” reported African Renewal

Total continental trade between African countries stands at between 10-12%, whereas in Europe the figures are closer to 60%. Economic powerhouses South Africa and Egypt are heading the agreement, followed by Kenya, Angola, Mauritius, Mozambique, DR Congo, Ethiopia.

However the high expectations from the proposed free trade deal have been questioned; analysts have commented on incoherent national trade policies which may hinder any pan-African deal. There are also questions around whether there is the poilitical will to implement such an agreement.

Economic and social differentiation between African economies has also sparked fears that such an agreement will be to the advantage of the larger and more dominant economies, and at the expense of more economically dependant countries. Globally debates surrounding free trade areas, particularly the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), have become increasingly polarised.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY: Intra-Continental Trade Boost
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Volume 52, Issue 12, Pp.21089C–21090B

TUNISIA – EU: Free Trade Talks
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Volume 52, Issue 10, Pp.21021A–21022C

EAC – SADC – COMESA: Tripartite Free Trade Area
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Volume 52, Issue. 5, Pp.20837A–20838C

Subscribe to the African Research Bulletin today